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Exploring ways in which to "hack" our built environment for increased physical and mental wellbeing.

Updated: May 10

Part 3:

Envirohacking, Enviro Hacking Exploring ways to  hack our built environment for increased physical and mental wellbeing.   [Part 2]
 

Architecture & Interior's Impact: From Inspiration to Transformation


We all feel a sense of awe, inspiration and perhaps even otherworldliness when we enter a great monastery or cathedral. Why is that?  In fact, Jonas Silk who discovered the polio vaccine gave all the credit to the way a 13th century monastery known as the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, amplified his creative thinking. "The spirituality of the architecture there was so inspiring that I was able to do intuitive thinking far beyond any I had done in the past. Under the influence of that historic place I intuitively designed the research that I felt would result in a vaccine for polio. I returned to my laboratory in Pittsburgh to validate my concepts and found that they were correct.” This experience in turn so strongly impacted his views on how Architecture influence the mind that he built the Salk Institute to stimulate breakthroughs and creativity.


As we have established in the previous 2 articles, our environment is ridiculously powerful in impacting our behaviour on a subconscious level. By illustration, here are some quick examples of studies and observations to illustrate this point.


Students holding a hot cup of coffee for a few seconds before being asked to read a short paragraph and judge a fictional character in it, were more likely to describe the person as warm and friendly and those holding an iced coffee more as cold and narcissistic.


  1. Students holding a hot cup of coffee for a few seconds before being asked to read a short paragraph and judge a fictional character in it, were more likely to describe the person as warm and friendly and those holding an iced coffee more as cold and narcissistic.

  2. Just a subtle aroma of cleaning liquid in the air causes people to be behave perceptibly cleaner and tidier than usual.

  3. A visible briefcase in a room whether real or just a picture will subconsciously cause people to behave more competitively even when they have not consciously noticed it and have no memory of having seen it.


With that said lets look at 3 architectural examples acknowledged for their positive contribution and impact on human behaviour.


Example 1,


Apart from winning an American Institute of Design Award it has also become an extremely popular hub of the local community with attendance post revamp up by a whopping 55%. Let’s have a look why. For one the library is a rather radical departure from a building with a public book collection to a building for public participation and engagement. It has in fact become a bustling and  highly popular local community hub.


This was partly achieved by having a community centric approach from the very beginning, designing with the community as opposed to for them. From these learnings and insights they grabbed the opportunity to radically expand on the function of a traditional library. Steep departures includes an emphasis on community gathering spaces over silent spaces. To this end it features a sound + vision room, a recording studio complete with a drum set, various interesting reading nooks both inside and outside and a building that extends far beyond its walls into the park with harmonious informal gathering areas, an amphitheatre and an events plaza serving as a connector to the community swimming pool and the larger downtown area.


Design for Behaviour, an enviro hacking assesment of. Apart from winning an American Institute of Design Award it has also become an extremely popular hub of the local community with attendance post revamp up by a whopping 55%. Let’s have a look why. For one the library is a rather radical departure from a building with a public book collection to a building for public participation and engagement. It has in fact become a bustling and  highly popular local community hub. This was partly achieved by having a community centric approach from the very beginning, designing with the community as opposed to for them. From these learnings and insights they grabbed the opportunity to radically expand on the function of a traditional library. Steep departures includes an emphasis on community gathering spaces over silent spaces. To this end it features a sound + vision room, a recording studio complete with a drum set, various interesting reading nooks both inside and outside and a building that extends far beyond its walls into the park with harmonious informal gathering areas, an amphitheatre and an events plaza serving as a connector to the community swimming pool and the larger downtown area.
Lawrence Public Library in Kansas ©2015 Tim Griffith

Internal community spaces for music & Interesting reading nooks.



Example 2,


If spaces, places and building are only as successful as the users  say they are then the Adler Hey Children’s Hospital loved by all that work and heal there, certainly deserves a string of awards. Its significance starts with the fact that very little about this building appears like a hospital, from the distant approach - the concept of a hill in the park is obvious - to the internal circulation where logical colour coded wards stripped of long corridors with plenty of natural light and multiple views onto the park makes for intuitive circulation and a delightful and stress free interior. 


Circulation corridor, Critical Care unit
Circulation corridor, Critical Care unit

And again, as per the Lawrence public library the successful human centered outcome, was achieved by designing with its users as opposed to for them. To this end nearly 1000 children and young people were consulted about what they wanted in a new hospital. None of them wanted a hospital that looked like one and nearly all of them wanted it to be good for the environment and in turn for nature to be a central theme. They wanted places to socialize play and have fun and above all, a place where they would recover quickly. its certainly obvious now – Roger Ulrich 1984 Gallbladder studies – nature has a remarkable ability to assist in accelerated healing. Growing evidence also suggests a direct health and longevity correlation to our level of social connection. The same accounts for colour with studies indicating that the correct use of colour can have a significant impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of patients.



Example 3,


This another great example of a building stretching its briefed functional use case into a highly successful central social community hub. BIG (Bjark Ingles Group) extended the building’s original program - to be the "cleanest waste-to-energy power plant in the world - to a building that would also be the bedrock of the social life of the city. With an attendance estimated at 42-57 thousand visitors annually, “its facade is climbable, its roof is hikeable and its slopes are skiable" Says Bjark Ingles, founder of BIG. 


 CopenHill in Copenhagen.
CopenHill in Copenhagen. Photo courtesy of SLA

Atop the structure's roof is a nearly 1,500-foot-long ski slope, that can accommodate beginners, intermediates, and experts. The climbing wall, manufactured by Walltopia, is the world's tallest climbing wall at 85 meters. Additionally, it incorporates a hive of other social attractions like a rooftop bar, a cross-fit area and a 490-metre-long hiking and running trail within a "lush" nature setting.


If people ignore design that ignores people (Frank Chimero) then conversely also it seems that people love design that loves and acknowledges people as is indeed quite evident in the 3 examples above.


Please join us again for our next article where we will look more closely at specific spatial and architectural behavioural triggers and how we can indeed reverse engineer these findings to create spaces that can make a very meaningful and highly impactful contribution towards our personal development goals, needs and desires.


 

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